Inspection of the Maturita River in progress. (Image courtesy Ministry of Planning and Development)

The Ministry of Planning and Development has advanced another step in its efforts to monitor and mitigate against potential pollution threats from the Guanapo Landfill, with a recent assessment exercise in the area.

Residents of Guanapo may have noticed more activity than usual in and around the Guanapo Landfill, between December 4th and December 17th, 2020.

With reflective vests and sampling apparatus, a cross-functional team of international and local environmental experts from the Ministry of Planning and Development and other agencies, conducted an assessment of the water quality at the Guanapo Landfill and environs.

The aim of the exercise, according to a release issued by the Ministry, is improving the environmental conditions surrounding the landfill and mitigating against potential health and environmental hazards.

The Ministry explains that the exercise forms part of an overall regional project titled: “Development and Implementation of a Sustainable Management Mechanism for Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the Caribbean”, which aims to manage levels of exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs are pollutants of international concern, whose potential health impacts have prompted countries around the world to commit to eliminating products that contain them, such as pesticides, industrial chemicals and fire suppressants.

Planning and Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, had made a commitment to this project in her 2020/2021 Budget presentation, indicating that such projects are tangible representations of Theme 5 of Vision 2030.

Theme 5 gives priority to “Placing the Environment at the Centre of Economic and Social Development” and contributes to this country’s achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals—Sustainable Cities and Communities, Managing Life Below Water and Life on Land (SDGs 11, 14 and 15).

“A healthy environment is critical for a healthy population,” Minister Robinson-Regis said, concerning the recent exercise.

“POPs can pose such a risk to human life, as well as the environment. I am so pleased that this exercise is underway, as it ensures that we are actively monitoring and mitigating against any potential risk by these pollutants which may be generated from the Guanapo Landfill.”

At Guanapo Landfill – The cross-functional team which consists of the Ministry of Planning and Development, members of Tauw, the Basel Convention Regional Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for the Caribbean (BCRC-Caribbean), the National Project Working Committee (PWC), the Trinidad and Tobago Solid Waste Management Company (SWMCOL) and the landfill manager. (Image courtesy Ministry of Planning and Development)

The Ministry of Planning and Development, in partnership with the Trinidad and Tobago Solid Waste Management Company Limited (SWMCOL), is implementing this project component concerning POPs. This specific activity under the project is funded by the Global Environment Facility to the tune of US $650,000 and is implemented by an independent European environmental consulting and engineering firm.

The Guanapo Landfill is located at the foothills of the Northern Range, approximately two (2) kilometres east of the Arima Borough and is between two tributaries of the Guanapo River—the El Cedro Stream and the Maturita River. As is typical with all landfills, there is the potential risk of environmental pollution.  As such, the Ministry selected Guanapo Landfill for conducting this demonstration project, which will serve as a template for introducing and transferring international best practice and knowledge to similar site assessments, closures and remediation activities in small island developing states, as well as countries with economies in transition.

The first phase of activity conducted at the Landfill forms part of an Environmental Risk Management Plan (ERMP) to manage the potential impacts and recommend areas of improving the site model, especially as it relates to the surrounding water courses and groundwater.

The Maturita River inspection was carried out on December 8th.

“Findings from the river study will, among other things, identify other possible sources of pollution outside of the Guanapo Landfill, from activities such as farming, washing of clothing, light industry, recreation or wastewater dumping,” Waste Management Specialist in the Ministry, Keima Gardiner noted.

“This will then inform a Risk Communication Plan, designed to educate the residents and wider public on potential risks, and proper river usage to mitigate against potential threats,” she said.

The Planning Ministry reports that as part of the overall project, a Remediation Plan to improve waste management practices and gradually improve environmental conditions also was developed for the Guanapo Landfill. The Environmental Risk Management Plan (ERMP) forms part of the Remediation Plan.

The cross-functional team comprises members of the Ministry of Planning and Development; Tauw, an independent European environmental consulting and engineering firm based in the Netherlands; the project Executing Agency, the Basel Convention Regional Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for the Caribbean (BCRC-Caribbean); the national Focal Point and Chair of the National Project Working Committee (PWC); and SWMCOL, the State Enterprise responsible for the Landfill Management. The Ministry of Planning and Development was represented by Ms. Keima Gardiner, Chair of the PWC on the team.